Western Governors' deepening partnership with StraighterLine creates a new path to completion

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Western Governors University steers rejected applicants to StraighterLine, an online course provider that acts as a low-risk way for students to prepare to earn a degree.

Higher education groups criticize Education Department estimate of how much teacher prep regulations will cost

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Higher education groups take issue with how the federal Education Department estimated the cost to colleges of its proposed regulation.

Guidance from Feds on Competency-Based Education

The U.S. Department of Education last week issued a letter with guidance on a form of competency-based education. The document addresses direct assessment programs, which are not based on the credit-hour standard. So far only a handful of colleges have received federal-aid eligibility for such programs.

U.S. Announces Rulemaking on Income-Based Repayment

The U.S. Department of Education is soliciting nominations for its rulemaking panel that will convene next year to carry out President Obama's directive to make an additional 5 million loan borrowers eligible for federal government’s most generous income-based repayment program.

The department will publish a notice in tomorrow's Federal Register that it is seeking negotiated-rulemaking committee members from a range of constituencies, such as student groups, consumer advocacy organizations, and various types of colleges and universities. 

The panel will next year begin hashing out the details for expanding Obama's income-based repayment program, known as Pay As You Earn, which caps borrowers' monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years.

The department has not yet put a price tag on how much the expansion will cost. It’s also unclear whether the rulemaking panel will consider some of the reforms to income-based repayment programs -- like capping the benefits for high-income, high-debt borrowers -- that the administration has previously proposed.

The Education Department will host three-day sessions of negotiations in February, March and April of next year.

The rulemaking committee, the department announced, will also consider changes to how active-duty servicemembers access federal loan benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The companies that process federal loans have sparred with the Education Department over, among other things, what type of documentation is needed to provide servicemembers with a discount on their loan's interest rate. The issue cropped up earlier this year as part of the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against Sallie Mae, which alleged that the company overcharged servicemembers.

The company, whose loan-servicing operations have since been separated into a company called Navient, paid $97 million to settle the case.

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Why Did U. of Redlands Suspend Its Student Paper?

The student government at the University of Redlands has cut funding for its student newspaper amid a controversy over a disputed quote in an article about a major gift, The Redlands Daily Facts reported. The article was about a $35 million gift for scholarships, and one quote (now contested) suggested that the funds were likely to go to "rich, white males." The original article can be found here. The leaders of the student paper, The Bulldog Weekly, have on Facebook accused the administration of censoring the publication by working with the student government to cut off funds and suspend publication. University officials say that the suspension of operations reflects many concerns about the paper, not just those over a single quote.


Groups Oppose Corinthian Sale to ECMC

A coalition of 46 student, consumer, veterans and civil rights groups on Wednesday wrote to the Obama Administration and U.S. Department of Education to oppose the proposed sale of 56 Corinthian Colleges' campuses to ECMC, a nonprofit student loan guarantee agency.

"The terms of the proposed sale to ECMC would not give students the choice of completing or a fresh start, while leaving the campuses in the hands of a troubled entity with no educational experience," the groups wrote. They called on the department to exercise more flexibility in allowing Corinthian students to seek loan discharges. The letter also suggests stricter terms for an ECMC deal, such as requiring that the campuses meet "gainful employment" regulations for seven years.

The sale, which department officials back, is expected to close in January.


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Art exhibit focuses on student debt

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Exhibit at Michigan State University aims to raise awareness and money to help solve the burden of student debt. 

Federal audit faults Education Department for lack of plan to prevent student loan defaults

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A federal audit of the U.S. Department of Education’s student loan programs concludes that the agency is without a “comprehensive plan or strategy to prevent student loan defaults.”

CFPB accuses two "debt relief" companies of predatory practices

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The consumer bureau shut down one company and sued another over what it said were predatory practices amounting to a "scam." The feds say the companies tricked borrowers into buying services they could have received free. 

Accreditation Panel Issues Higher Ed Act Suggestions

The federal panel tasked with advising the U.S. Department of Education on accreditation issues on Thursday released a draft set of recommendations for changing accreditation during reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity has been working on an updated set of recommendations since earlier this year. The panel previously made a series of recommendations in 2011 and 2012, but the Education Department has asked members of the committee to update those documents.

“This is not a final document in any sense,” said Susan Phillips, who chairs the panel and is vice president for strategic partnerships of the State University of New York at Albany and senior vice president for academic affairs of the SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn. She said the panel would continue working on the recommendations with the goal of producing a more final product during its next meeting in June.

Among the ideas in the draft recommendations:

  • Convert all accrediting agencies into national accreditors and eliminate regionally focused ones.
  • Allow for alternative accrediting organizations.
  • Simplify the recognition process for accreditors by establishing common definitions across various different accrediting agencies
  • Allow NACIQI reviews to be focused on “the health and well-being and the quality of institutions of higher education and their affordability, rather than on technical compliance with the criteria for recognition.”
  • Give accrediting agencies greater authority to create different tiers of approval of institutions.
  • Require colleges to produce self-certified data on “key metrics of access, cost and student success” (such as dropout rate, student loan burdens, repayment rates, and job placement rates for vocational programs).
  • Establish a range of accreditation statutes that provide differential access to Title IV funds, which would move away from the current “all or nothing” system.


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